Most of the time, when people ask, “how are you doing?” they mean physically. But mental health is just as important as physical health, and we overlook it more than we care to admit.
Every individual’s mental health is critical, and we have to look after it collectively as a society. However, it’s surprising how people would choose to stigmatize and negatively stereotype people suffering from mental health challenges. This discrimination has many negative impacts on the people suffering from their mental health and does no good for anybody.
What are Negative Stereotypes and Stigma in Mental Health?
Stigmatization of mental health patients defines them by their illness as not their personality or who they are. If a person is experiencing psychosis and you tag them or start calling them psychotic, that’s stigmatization. Or, if someone is in depression and we categorize it as “it’s all in the head” or “it’s just a phase,”- that is also stigmatization.
According to Mayo Clinic(1), mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Here are some examples of the signs and symptoms of a mental health disorder:
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
- Feeling sad or down
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Problems with alcohol or drug use
- Major changes in eating habits
- Sex drive changes
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
- Suicidal thinking
In the end, this does not help the individual to be better or recover from their condition. If anything, it only worsens it. It causes them to run into their shell, not talk to or open up to people, and don’t ask for help from a professional because they are scared of getting stigmatized repeatedly.
Some of the Consequences of Negative Stereotypes and Stigma in Mental Health
There are several negative consequences of stigmatization on the stigmatized(2), especially if they experience a mental health condition. Some of these are:
- They feel hopeless, helpless, and ashamed of themselves, so they go into isolation.
- They are reluctant to ask anyone for help or even try to get treatment.
- They feel like nobody loves or understands them, not their family, friends, or strangers.
- They don’t get the opportunity for social interaction with others and employment.
- They experience constant harassment, physical violence, and bully.
- They lose their self-confidence and start to doubt themselves, thinking that they can’t overcome the illness and achieve anything good with their life.
How to Deal With Stigma?
Dealing with stigma might not be easy for someone struggling with their mental health, and the lack of self-belief makes it hard to believe that they can overcome their illness(3). This is why many of them end up committing suicide. The hopelessness creeps in and sinks them, all due to the stigmatization.
However, it is not impossible to handle the negativity. You can deal with it. You can rise above it and be better than anyone thinks. First, however, you have to do some things to overcome the stigma, and some of them are listed below.
Suggested read: How to Take Better Care of your Mental Health
1- Get your treatment from a professional.
A physically sick person needs to get treatment from a medical practitioner or healthcare worker. It’s the same for people with mental illnesses too. Many mental health doctors and practitioners can help you through your condition and improve your health. Don’t allow the fear of stigmatization to prevent you from getting the help you need. Go, see someone or try online therapy that takes insurance.
2- Don’t believe what stigmas say.
I don’t expect that someone who doesn’t know you would call you a random name, and you would answer them. You won’t even know they were talking to you. This is precisely how you need to treat those people stereotyping and stigmatizing you. You don’t believe your name is James because I call you that. You only believe if you are actually James.
So, it will help if you don’t think about what other people say about you. You should ignore external influences because they don’t reflect who you are and should influence what you think or feel about. Healthcare professionals are the only people you need to talk to and believe as you try to recover.
3- Don’t hide in isolation.
It is common for people experiencing mental illness to hide in isolation. But being along with your thoughts does not help. You should at least talk to trusted people like your family, friends, and religious leaders that can support you in every way.
4- Connect with other people
Many groups around you can help and support your mental health(4). It can be a mental health community online or other in-person meetings. Joining a group takes away the isolation, and finding people to talk to, especially those with similar situations and experiences, can help.
5- Make sure your illness doesn’t define you
People who are stigmatizing you are trying to redefine you. You must make sure that the illness does not redefine you. Don’t let them get to you. You are not schizophrenic; you have schizophrenia.
6- It’s nothing personal.
Many times, when people judge us, it is because they don’t know us or understand our persona. People’s views of others tend to change when they know them better. So, you can’t take something that someone who doesn’t know you personally says to heart.
Suggested read: How to Prioritize Mental Health this year
Challenging Mental Illness Stigma
When dealing with stigma and helping people with mental health issues, we all have our roles to play(5). Everyone has to:
- Know the fact about mental illness and share them with people in their circle.
- Get to know and understand people experiencing a mental illness so you will know them and their personalities, instead of judging them based on their condition.
- Treat every other person with dignity and respect and not judge or discriminate, irrespective of their mental health struggles.
- Stop using languages that put the illness before the person. Say that the person has bipolar disorder instead of saying that they are bipolar.
- Stand to correct other people around them instantly when they see them stigmatize or make a stereotype stereotypical state mental illness or somebody experiences one.
- Share their mental illness experience with other people. This will help enlighten everyone and reduce stigmatization. People have to know that there’s nothing shameful about mental illness.
Guest Author‘s Bio:
Alice Jones is a writer providing assignment help at essay writing service and a journalist. She is from San Francisco, CA. She graduated from the University of San Francisco and got a master’s degree. Alice concentrated on such topics as business, marketing, and freelance. Find her on Twitter.
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